A woman has won £80,000 in damages after suing her rapist in the Civil Courts.
For legal reasons the woman cannot be named. She stated she was raped after a night out in St Andrews by Stephen Coxen whom she had met earlier in the evening. Criminal proceedings were pursued against Mr Coxen. He denied the charges and in November 2015 a jury in Scotland found the case against him not proven. The woman then pursued her claim for damages in the Civil Courts which require a lower standard of proof than in criminal cases. In a criminal case the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In a civil case judgments are decided on the balance of probabilities i.e. more likely than not.
The BBC reported on 5 October 2018 that the Scottish Court held Mr Coxen had taken advantage of the woman when she was incapable of giving meaningful consent to sex because of the effects of alcohol.
The woman apparently felt let down by the criminal process hence her decision to pursue civil proceedings.
Pursuing your assailant in an assault or sexual assault case is always an option as long as the assailant can be identified. The main difficulty which often arises with such claims is the assailant having sufficient assets with which to pay an award of compensation. Unless a person has significant assets e.g. owns a house or other property then it is rarely cost effective to pursue civil proceedings against them. A person could spend thousands of pounds and be successful in the case but never actually recover any compensation from their assailant.
On occasion our firm has successfully pursued compensation from assailants for injuries suffered by our clients to the extent that we have forced the sale of property to recover compensation awarded. If you have suffered serious injury or sexual abuse including non-recent sexual abuse contact Andrew Freckleton, Katy Stephenson or Richard Hardy for advice.
Survivors of assault may also consider applications for compensation to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). This is a government body who award compensation to victims of criminal violence. Certain conditions must be fulfilled for an award to be made. Our team of Solicitors can advise you on such applications and the interrelationship between CICA claims and concurrent civil proceedings.
BBC Scotland reported that the woman who successfully sued Stephen Coxen stated it was highly unlikely she would see any of the money as it would be clawed back to pay legal costs. As above this is the unfortunate difficulty is suing assailants who have limited assets. To recover both compensation and legal costs in full the assailant would need to have significant assets available to them.
Some of the successful damages claims which have hit the headlines in previous years have included a case involving the former Leeds United and Newcastle United Footballer Lee Bowyer. He was found not guilty of committing both grievous bodily harm and affray at Hull Crown Court in 2001 following an incident in Leeds City Centre with two Asian males. His then Leeds United colleague Jonathan Woodgate was acquitted of causing GBH but convicted of affray. The males who claimed they had been attacked by Lee Bowyer and suffered significant injuries started a civil action for compensation. One newspaper report claimed Lee Bowyer paid around £170,000 to the 2 males in compensation.
In 2017 a rape victim Denise Clair won a civil case for compensation against footballers David Goodwillie and David Robertson. Ms Clair waived her right to anonymity and brought a civil claim after the Crown Prosecution Service decided against prosecuting the pair in the Criminal Courts. The Judge in the Civil Court upheld her claim that the rapes had happened and awarded her £100,000 in damages.
It is unfortunate for survivors/victims of assault that the level of compensation they may receive from their assailant often depends on the wealth of the assailant. If the assailant is a person of straw i.e. has no assets then the only available damages may be from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and then only if their strict eligibility criteria are met.
Blog by Richard Hardy, Partner